New Law Prohibits Employers From Obtaining Employee Facebook Passwords

New Law Prohibits Employers From Obtaining Employee Facebook PasswordsThe Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Illinois has become only the second state in the nation to make it illegal for employers to ask prospective or current employees for passwords to their Facebook accounts or other online profile accounts. Governor Pat Quinn recently signed the new law, which takes effect January 1. There are no exceptions to the law, and employers could face civil penalties of between $100 and $300. Maryland is the only other state so far to pass such a law, but Washington, Delaware, and New Jersey are all considering similar laws.

Despite this restriction, employers are still free to view information that is publicly available on Facebook and other such online accounts. Employers also can freely set workplace policies about employee usage of the Internet, social networking sites, and email.

This law was passed in response to privacy concerns voiced by civil liberties groups, social media users, students, job seekers alike, as employers increasingly have begun asking applicants and employees for password information in order to log into their private accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter. By accessing these accounts, employers look to gain access to information that they otherwise are prohibiting from inquiring about, such as religious beliefs, political affiliations, and sexual preference. In fact, a research reportedly has shown that up to 75% of employers look at online profiles before offering an applicant a job, and that approximately a third of employers have not offered jobs to applicants based on the information found in these online profiles.

In this age of social media, employers need to be acutely aware of their rights and responsibilities under Illinois law in terms of managing prospective and current employees and their online profiles. Under this new law, employers could face civil liability if they improperly demand such information from employees. For more information on the role of social media in employment law, be sure to consult with your Naperville employment lawyer today.